February 13, 2024

Kidney Nutrition: Fats and PKD

Know the facts about fats and PKD

KN_3.pngFebruary is Heart Month in Canada. It is a time to focus on raising awareness around the risks of cardiovascular health and how we can make small changes in our nutrition and lifestyle to reduce our risk.

Cardiovascular is a big umbrella term for the health of your heart and blood vessels. With PKD, there is an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and it is often a cause of death. But there are easy changes that can be made to decrease your risk, such as increasing fibre and choosing heart-healthy fats.

Dietary fats are essential for good overall health. Fat helps to give our body energy, because it has calories, supports cell growth, and helps to absorb nutrients. But not all fats are created equal. This blog post will look at sources of dietary fat, and considerations for PKD.

The big concern with dietary fats is that the influence cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease. Consuming high amounts of “bad fats” can lead to high levels of blood cholesterol, and plaque forming in the arteries, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Understanding the sources of fat in your diet and being mindful with choices may help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

KN_EN_2.pngTypes of Fats

There are 3 main types of dietary fats. It is important to understand the difference, so that you can make nutritious choices with PKD.

Trans fats

Trans fats are an unhealthy fat that adds texture and flavour to foods. Trans fats are solid at room temperature. There are two types of trans fats: naturally-occurring from meat and dairy, and artificial or processed. Artificial trans fat it is often found in commercial baked goods, fried foods, and packaged snacks like chips.

There have not been sufficient evidence to determine if natural trans fats have the same health consequences and risk of heart disease as artificial trans fats. Current recommendations are to choose foods with the least amount of trans fats possible, and this includes natural trans fats.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are sometimes referred to as the “bad fats”. This type of fat is often found in animal products like beef, pork, chicken, dairy products, processed foods like baked goods and many fast foods, cooking foods such as butter, coconut oil ghee or lard.

Limiting saturated fats to less than 5-10% of your total daily intake helps to protect the heart and lower cholesterol levels. Reading nutrition labels for saturated fat and aiming for 5% or less daily value per serving can help to keep your saturated fat intake low. Choosing leaner sources of products like skinless chicken, lower fat dairy products, and reducing the use of butter can help to lower saturated fat intake.

KN_EN_1.pngUnsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are the heart healthy fats and sometimes referred to as the “good fats”. There are two main types of unsaturated fat called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts (including almonds, cashews and pecans), seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower), avocado, and oils such as olive and canola oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fats that are found in fish like salmon, trout, or sardines; nuts like walnut and pecans; and seeds such as flax or sunflower seeds. Some foods are fortified with omega-3, such as egg and dairy products.

Unsaturated fats help to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and provide essential nutrients for good health. Limiting saturated fats helps to prevent high cholesterol levels. Avoiding trans fats also helps to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

Things to Consider

When including fats in your diet, aim to include small amounts such as 2-3 TBSP of unsaturated fat each day. This could be oil used in cooking, salad dressings or marinades.

Read food labels for saturated and trans fats. Aiming for 5% or less daily value per serving for saturated fat can help to keep your saturated fat intake low. Choose foods with little or no trans fats.

Choose lower-fat dairy products. M.F. stands for “milk fat” on dairy products. Products with higher percentages of M.F. have more saturated and trans fats present. Look for 2% M.F. or less for milk and yogurt, and 20% M.F. or less for cheese.

Trim the visible fat and take the fat off meat and poultry before cooking. Choose leaner cuts of meat like chicken or turkey more often. Limit red meat like beef, pork, or lamb to once per week.

The Facts About Fats

Fat is an important part of our diet, but not all fats are created equal. For managing your heart and kidney health remember to choose foods with unsaturated fats more often and limit the frequency and portion of foods with saturated and trans fats.


Pear and Walnut Salad

This quick and easy salad is great as a meal or side dish. It is packed with heart-heathy fats from olive oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds for a nutritional benefit, but will also keep you full. This salad uses low-fat goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette for lots of flavour. If you want to use this for lunches, simply do not dress the salad until ready to eat.

Servings 4

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes


4 TBSP lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup couscous, dry

6 cups arugula
2 medium pear, washed, cored, and sliced thin

1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped
2 TBSP unsalted pumpkin seeds

140 g goat cheese


  1. Cook couscous as directed on package. Add 1 TBSP lemon juice, mix well, and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl mix together ingredients for dressing: lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine arugula, sliced pear, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cooked couscous. Top with salad dressing and mix well.
  4. Add cooked couscous and goat cheese to salad. Toss all ingredients together and enjoy.

Nutrition information (per serving): 472 calories, 35.6 g carbohydrate, 6.0 g fibre, 10.5 g sugar, 34.6 g fat, 8.6 g saturated fat, 14.9 g protein, 227.5 mg sodium, 400.3 mg potassium, 292.7 mg phosphorus, oxalate 23.8 mg

Written by: Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master’s Degree in Foods and Nutrition. Emily specializes in renal nutrition, helping those with kidney disease overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily can be found at

Read all of Emily’s kidney nutrition posts, here.

Check out all of our kidney-friendly recipes, here.

Do you have a question about kidney nutrition? Drop us a comment here, and we will try to address your question in a future blog.